Featuring 16 sets of ekphrastic poetry by scholar-writer Dr. Tan Chee Lay alongside the paintings of veteran artist Tong Chin Sye, The Painting Speaks brings together the creative expressions of two important local talents and provides new windows through which audience can connect meaningfully with both the literary and visual art forms. Originally composed in Chinese, each poem by Dr. Tan Chee Lay embodies a literary (re)interpretation of a painting by Tong Chin Sye. This relationship between the image and the word is shaped by a collaboration as well as a contest of ideas. As contexts and meanings shift and expand in the process, new dimensions emerge for our enjoyment of both painting and poetry.

The ekphrastic poetry by Dr. Tan Chee Lay in The Painting Speaks relates an interesting literary dimension to appreciating Tong Chin Sye’s oil and mixed media paintings (completed mostly between the 1980s – 2012). Several paintings capture the street scenes and character of Old Singapore as experienced by Tong Chin Sye, before the rapid onslaught of urbanisation redefined the island.

Exhibition, 1989, Oil on canvas, 110 cm x 75 cm

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